Contribution of Mindfulness to Individuals' Tendency to Believe and Share Social Media Content

Contribution of Mindfulness to Individuals' Tendency to Believe and Share Social Media Content

Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol (National Institute of Development Administration, Thailand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0417-8.ch043
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The objective of this research was to explore the effect of mindfulness on individuals' tendencies to believe social media content and share it without realizing the potential consequences. The sample used in this study comprised 300 participants in Bangkok, Thailand, of whom 157 were full-time employees and 143 were college students. Results from partial least squares regression analysis supports the hypothesis that individuals who exhibit higher levels of mindfulness tend to be skeptical of the validity of information to which they are exposed. In addition, skepticism is linked to a decreased tendency to believe social media content and to share content on social media. The findings further support a direct link between mindfulness and a decreased tendency to share social media content. Overall, these findings confirm the positive contribution of mindfulness as a quality that may allow individuals to question the validity of social media content before they decide to believe it and share it with others.
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1. Introduction

The term social media has been widely defined in literature as “Internet-based services that allow individuals to create, share and seek content, as well as to communicate and collaborate with each other” (Lee & Ma, 2012, p. 332). It is evident that social media have begun to replace traditional media, such as television and newspapers (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Currently, people tend to rely heavily on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to gain access to news and information (Talcoth, 2015). Advances in smartphone technology also provide access to news and information from anywhere through mobile social media applications. Information posted on social media often disperses rapidly across geographic boundaries (Suh et al, 2010). These platforms not only allow individuals to obtain a wide coverage of information faster and easier than traditional media do, but also facilitate information sharing among members (Li et al, 2014). In contrast to traditional media where individuals passively receive information provided by content editors, social media promote the active participation of users in producing content, thereby empowering people (Lee & Ma, 2012).

Despite the benefits of social media, which significantly facilitate information diffusion, problems can arise when people increase their reliance on these applications for information consumption without questioning the accuracy of the content (Carlos et al, 2013; Gundecha & Liu, 2012). In addition, some users share posts with others without considering the potential consequences of sharing invalid or distorted information. Literature has shown that rumors tend to be pervasive in social media (Diakopoulos et al, 2012; Mendoza et al, 2010; Ratkiewicz et al, 2011). According to Oh et al (2010), a major criticism of social media is that they can be used for propagating misinformation, rumors, and, in extreme cases, propaganda. Similarly, they can be used as channels for spreading biased information, tribal prejudices, and hate speech (Mäkinen & Wangu Kuira, 2008). The viral spreading of political misinformation in social media is one example of social media abuse (Ratkiewicz et al, 2011). Furthermore, hoaxes, such as Hollywood rumors, tend to spread via social media from time to time (Dewey, 2014). Given the negative effects of overreliance on social media for news and information and the tendency to share misinformation on social media, which can cause suspicion and fear among the public (Chen et al, 2015; Oh et al, 2010; Stieglitz & Dang-Xuan, 2013), it is important to understand some of people’s personal characteristics that explain these social media behaviors. Gaining this body of knowledge is crucial because it can offer some recommendations to help prevent this behavioral tendency. In practice, it is generally difficult and somehow controversial for policy makers to resort to legal actions to strictly monitor and control contents that citizens post and share on social media (Sakawee, 2013). However, if policy makers understand some key personal characteristics that can restrain such behavior and are able to provide proper intervention or campaign to promote these characteristics, this can serve as a more effective solution to reduce the spread of misinformation in society.

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